Croatia And Psychological Importance of History And Its Facts

 

Psychological importance of history and truth
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National identity is the pillar of individual affiliation with a state or nation. It is the catalyst that drives people to do their best for the sake of the homeland, including sacrificing their lives in support of a country and protecting its achievements. In this strong affiliation lies, absolutely, the success of Croatian people’s magnificent victory over the brutal and genocidal Serb-led aggressor in the 1990’s.

It is without doubt that national identity plays a vital role in guaranteeing progress, prosperity, security and stability of any country. It is a homeland that, in its truest sense, safeguards human dignity, ensures happiness and a decent livelihood for its citizens, who, wherever they go, have pride in belonging to that homeland, which, in turn, is proud of its people. Globalisation has contributed to changes in both the notion and nature of national identity across the world. With technology and communication advances and freedom of movement, with globalisation came the so-called global society but this new global society is no alternative to national identity.  It bears no hallmarks of individual sacrifice for greater good, it bears no sense of belonging, which is one of the basic needs human beings have in life.

But, in Croatia, things have gone terribly wrong especially since the minority governments started forming governments with Croatian Serb minority leaders who did not (during the 1990’s Croatian War of Independence) and still do not see Croatia as their homeland but rather see Serbia as their homeland. Hence, even the age-old Croatian greeting and salute “For Homeland Ready” (Za Dom Spremni) has been the target of vicious attacks, constant bombardments and barrages of humiliation and bullying aimed at Croatian people who hold their homeland dear; these bombardments come and came through historical lies devised by no other than the Serb-led communists of Former communist Yugoslavia.

At this time in particular, when the Croatian government has evidently dropped the superior importance of Croatian homeland for Croatian national identity and callously works hand-in-hand with the Serb minority leaders in Croatia to run to the ground the very positive and elating emotion in loving the homeland that had preserved and saved from perish the Croatian nation through centuries and particularly the 20th century, it is good to remind ourselves of the importance of knowing our true history.

Serbia has not given up its sights on access to the sea – the Adriatic Sea! Since 1918, when it managed to create a Kingdom that would include Croatian territory even though the Croatian Parliament never wanted nor ratified that it be joined to Serbia in the kingdom, through WWII and after it, when it held wielding power within the Yugoslav Army and ruling communist party and in 1990’s when it brutally attacked Croatia because Croats wanted out of Yugoslavia – Serbia has demonstrated over and over again that it would do anything and everything to have access to the Adriatic and retain command over the fate of Croats in Croatia (and in Bosnia and Herzegovina).

As human beings progress through life building social attachments in order to fulfil their basic needs developmental theories such as those of Jean Piaget suggest that children undergo a socialisation process that moves from the egocentric to the sociocentric. From the perspective of a nation the group satisfies and fulfils sociocultural, economic, and political needs, giving individuals a sense of security, a feeling of belonging, and, of course, prestige. We find that Psychology’s leading theorists (e.g. Abraham Maslow, B,F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud …) agree that the need to belong is a fundamental human motivation; national attachment can fulfil that need and help individuals construct their identity. Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory suggests that a person’s identity is based in part on his or her group (nation), so a group’s status and importance affect the individual’s own. In other words, you want to view your nation as being superior to others to increase your own self-esteem, creating “in-group favouritism” that drives enthusiasm for life and work (example: the classic “U! S! A!” chant; for Croatia “Za Dom Spremni” [For Homeland Ready]).

It would be, therefore, justified to say that we all as human beings have an existential interest in history. Compare a nation which has no interest in its own past with one which has a very pronounced interest in its history and the conclusion usually reached is that the latter may be humanly progressive while the former cannot truthfully be so designated. The knowledge of the past is not only of critical value to the fundamental needs of human beings but also to dealing with the modern problems human beings encounter, for if history does not repeat itself, there are undoubtedly some very striking analogies. If experience is the best teacher for an individual, the same may be said to apply for a nation, which is only an aggregate of individuals. Whether in classrooms or within family unit or on the streets education and knowledge we gather on the history of our and other nations impact significantly on personality and character development of each individual, and, therefore, the nation. If that knowledge is healthy, if it is commensurate with the sense of justice, which all human beings possess albeit in myriad ways or nuances, then a sense of pride is that harmony that defines a progressive nation that satisfies the basic needs of a just and good life each individual within it has.

The English historian Edward Augustus Freeman defined history as “Politics of the past” and Sir John Seeley extended the concept into saying that “History is past politics; and politics present history.” In the case of May 1945 Bleiburg massacres, as well as massacres and murders of multitudes of Croatian people who fought for or were associated with the efforts for an Independent State of Croatia by Yugoslavia’s communists after World War Two, the fact that often vocalised reasons for these mass murders and massacres remain to this day uncondemned on a national level speaks volumes into the truth behind Freeman’s and Seeley’s above mentioned phrase. By the end of the 20th century there was much talk worldwide of the decline of the nation-state: the institutions that had once defined politics appeared to have been bypassed and undermined by ‘globalisation’ on the one hand and consumerist, empowered individuals on the other. It is in this that I argue there is, in this period of the 21st century, significant potential for the “people” to be active in the making of their nation’s history.

We have already experienced the use of the word “revisionism” in a negative, reprimandable, sense when any scientific researcher attempts to look into the history with view to either confirm existing historical records or to disprove them – to set the record right as the popular phrase would say. For the case of a great percentage of Croatian people (who either fought for or yearned for an independent Croatia as the most important parameter defining lasting happiness of Croatian people) revision or research into the history is not only paramount for the Croatian human spiritual and existential importance of truth and facts but also for refusal to live a lie. Limiting history to the 20th century in this article, Croatian people thriving on pride arising from being seen as Croatian nation have suffered greatly, whether by being unwillingly pushed into a union of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia or whether subsequently being persecuted and oppressed by Yugoslavia’s communist regime. As the European Parliament has declared (September 2019) that the Communist regime was criminal regime (as well as Nazism) it is absolutely necessary and essential to research the history of Croatian suffering because it is a fact that hundreds of mass graves of communist crimes victims, hidden and denied by the communists during Yugoslavia era, have been discovered since 1991, i.e. since Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia.

Revision and research of history is vital for and meaningful particularly to a nation that has spent the 20th century being denied historical truth and fact. World War Two Jasenovac and Bleiburg massacres have divided the Croatian nation during that century and continue to divide it in the 21st largely because the presented truth and available facts are not something people can safely rely on in formulating or planning for a better future. Put in terms of psychological factors of individuals making up the nation the sense of belonging to a nation is dichotomous; the sense of belonging under one umbrella – Croatian nation – is difficult to develop a sense of belonging when one part of that nation does not see the other as one of their own, and vice versa. This dichotomy within the same nation of people can easily be attributed to the fact that much of the official history of 20th century Croatia has been written with political pen and fabrications and lies, and as such taught at schools and in life. Mixed with home or non-mainstream teachings (teachings by family members of a child, of an offspring or by activists in society) that either differ from, or are same as the claimed official version of the history are a consideration towards a national harmony in belonging for the Croatian nation, indeed, for all former communist countries undergoing transition towards actual truth, whether historical or current.

Challenging the historical events and accounts by Yugoslav/Croatian communists isn’t just an academic issue but has profound implications for the way a Croatian person understands his/her own nationhood. The decades of commemorations of mass murders of Croatian people by Yugoslav communists, the decades of discovering new mass graves of communist crime victims – a thousand of these so far and only a few days ago another one was discovered, the decades of commemorations of thousands fallen at the hands of Serb aggression for the Croatian homeland are our courage and strength to pursue the truth of history and reject the deceit in it injected by the Greater Serbia politics and die hard communists of Yugoslavia/Croatia. Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. As always, dear Ina Vukic, thankyou for sharing. Just want you to know that you have given so much. That your work has at least given me the ability to see so much further than ever i would have looked. Thankyou for sharing. Be safe and well, greetings from Oz!. Peace and love to you and yours.

  2. I always enjoy learning and reading your insights Ina. Thanks for educating us children of Croatian parents. X

  3. Maria Luise Golik says:

    Ina
    As always, your words, and specifically those expressed today, stirred in me emotions that have been piling up inside me for some time. However, until now I was not able to express my thoughts publicly, partly due to the lack of opportunity, but mostly, as a former citizen of SFRY, out of a still ingrained fear of “being political”. Your passion has freed me – and now I feel I have a lot to say, perhaps too much for here. I am “illiterate” in the new ways of communication, but I have a need to speak before I meet my maker. Thank you for inspiring me. (I am prepared for this not to be included in your blog because of its length.)
    I was very uneasy beginning to write all this. This morning I woke up, and I discovered the reason. Many years ago we had a house and a business in Sydney, but due to economic downfall we lost both. We decided to have a fresh start, moving to another state where we had a member of family. We started a new business, having as clients mostly our people (or pretending to be!). My husband found an outlet to vent his political thoughts and talk about his experience. Out of the blue, one day we had a threat of a bomb to be placed in the premises where we lived with three small children. I was frightened witless – I was not going to wait in dread. We packed our car and a small trailer and went bush. We travelled around Australia and, with the help of friends, returned to Sydney. We lived incognito for many years, afraid of anyone finding out where we were. Needless to say we did not associate with anyone from our community. We felt so much the loss of contact. But what I grieve the most is the loss of a complete homemade national costume from Selnice/Sesvete, left to me by my grand aunty (her wedding dress). I left it for safe keeping with an acquaintance while in transit, and they never returned it.
    So, I have found out where my fear comes from, and that would not have happened had I not discover your blog.
    I am 80 years old, and I am at the moment rushing to write my memoirs. Due to life’s circumstances I procrastinated to do this, but now my thoughts have crystallised and I desperately want to put down on paper what needs to be said, for my children to remember and never to forget.
    Trying to write about my life, I discovered that foremost I must write about my country and when I started researching, when I opened the “Pandora’s Box” of our history – I could not stop. I learned a lot; everything that I was not allowed to learn, everything that has been hidden.
    As I kept reading your page, there were several key words that evoked my emotions – and everyone had a deep meaning – but one topped them all – BELONGING! The word keeps appearing, becoming a main theme – reinforcing in me what was the missing link in my life.
    I was reminded that “belonging” popped up in my mental vocabulary after I graduated from university as a mature age student at the age of 48. Reading our Alumni magazine, there could have been some reference to “belonging” that spurred me on to write to the editor: “As a mature age student I am still trying to adjust to my new role. The transition from being for 30 years ‘a migrant woman’, a mother and a housewife – to being a single person, a graduate and ‘almost an Australian’ is not an easy one, and my self-confidence still needs a lot of improvement. ‘Belonging’ somewhere is still important, and the Alumni papers symbolises that important link with the institution where my education and maturation, at this late stage of my life, took place.”
    The article led to an invitation for an interview on ABC National Radio, more insight and a further process of dealing with my fragmented Self. (I just remembered that my specific instruction to the interviewer was “not to discuss anything ‘political’”!)
    The exposure and acknowledgment of my demons grounded me, and I finally stopped feeling like a “social orphan”. Belonging to my beloved Croatia, no matter where I live, blossomed openly in my heart and that is where it is firmly kept now, in spite of the lies and secrecy that are still around. I realise now that that was always the most important part of me, kept deep inside me, that reminded me to stay strong.
    I am a part of the generation born into WW2 and living the impressionable years of our adolescence during the onslaught of brainwashing by “our liberators.” I was lucky enough to have an innate feeling about our Croatian spirit that kept me from surrendering my soul – in contrast to those who lived and believed and preached, what I call, an upside down life of illusion, the life in Tito’s “Alice in Wonderland”. And, as I hear, there are still the sons and daughters, and grandchildren of those people continuing the epic lie they cannot let go of – diminishing the efforts of our sons who fought and lost their lives in the last war – and rendering the freedom of my people questionable. (In my family, a young nephew fought and was missing for a while, and a cousin was in “Tiger” division, doing his bit bravely – and losing his health).
    You have managed to express almost everything that is important to me, and as I read on, I reminisce about my childhood. I was lucky that I had a kind of “subliminal” education about our real history while observing and listening, when I should not have been. There were whispers – when open conversation was dangerous.
    There was also our connection to an important Croation family that could not be revealed. Photographs and documents that had to be hidden away in the attic in a suitcase which I, as a snooping child found, initiated the beginning of my awakening to the truth.
    You mentioned socialisation and development of children. I remember being very emotional while studying Jean Piaget, thinking in my case, not only about the loss of openness and truth that was replaced with manipulation especially of young minds – of Tito’s pioneers – but also about the confusion we young people were left in – while living according to the rules of the ruthless regime.
    There is so much more I want to say but I have to restrain myself. However, I have to mention one thing: Somewhere in my research I discovered information that sent goose bumps throughout my body, and a sense of pride welled within me. It stated:
    “Croatia from the end of national rulers in 1102, remained for over 900 years within the framework of multinational state communities, whether as a kingdom, a ban’s province or a republic, its right to statehood was always accepted as the basic right of the Croatian people to self-determination – to own their own statehood – except in the case of formation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, i.e. the later Kingdom of Yugoslavia.”(Croatia.com)
    Now I know why our people kept fighting and why they endured so much, and I am reminded that in yet another book I read: “Zagreb (read Croatia) has a rich and often stormy history stretching back for one thousand years and is a distinct product of that history. The past has made the present. It meant an amount of human pain arranged in an unbroken continuity…Were I to go down into the market place (Trznica) and ask any of the peasants: ‘In your lifetime, have you known peace?’…and then by some magic go down in history and ask the same of their fathers, and then again of their fathers as far as it would take us a thousand years – we would never hear the word ‘Yes’. We would hear ‘No, there was fear, …there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death.’…” (Rebecca West – Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – P54-55) Rebecca West continues in a typical English way, “But what would England be like if it had not its immense Valhalla of kings and heroes, if it had not had its Elizabethan and its Victorian ages…” (ibid. P56)
    Reading that, I felt the pain of those before us who marched through history, and the idealist in me contemplated: True, events in history create our future, but do the bad parts always have to be repeated, sometimes to be worse than ever. Why do we have to continuously send our sons to shed blood, why do we have to send them to fill our ‘Valhallas’ with their bodies? And most importantly, why do we hide the truth?
    And, if I would take a walk today on ‘Trznica’ and ask the people the same question Rebecca West was asking in 1937, what would be the answer regarding the years from then to today? Will the brutality of Croatian lives, their pain, end with the Wars of the 1990s?
    Another “vignette” about Croatian pain:
    “In light of the human and territorial loss, and also from the modern Croatian Romanticist point of view, the 15th and 16th centuries were known as the ‘Two centuries of Croatia in mourning’ (In the lyric-epic poem of Pavao Ritter Vitezovic from 1703)”
    (en.m.wikipedia.org Hundred Years’ Croatian-Ottoman Wars)
    I reminisce about the schooldays when we were herded on to the streets to stand there “en masse” with red scarves around our necks, chanting “Zivio Tito!” (some of us through clenched teeth) – with the picture of this manufactured “demi-god” in our faces on every wall, every street corner, every building. (God was dead – Tito ruled).
    There was the same story when I grew older and observed adults coming on to the streets out of their places of work. My people were divided; those who cheered, and those who were there because they had to be, quietly, bowing their heads to keep their jobs and their lives. “One part did not see the other as one of their own”. (I was too young to be part of the brigades of young people who “volunteered” to build the roads, mostly at the horror of their parents. They were coming back full of stories, some of which were best kept quiet)
    I feel very strongly that Tito directed all his power and his charm at the female part of his “flock”, like Hitler, and the strategy worked. Apparently, there are still today, in many old houses in the villages, shrines with Tito’s photograph kept and revered.
    I did not feel safe in that atmosphere. I did not feel safe growing up with teachers encouraging us to listen to what is being talked about at home, forcing us to decide where our loyalties lie. How could I feel safe (spying on my parents), I did not feel I belonged. I left the country at the age of 20.
    There was the inevitability of other family and friend’s involvement in the painful process we all went through. I knew that the husband of one of my aunties, who was presumed dead, finally emerged after surviving “Krizni Put”. Another went missing, never to return.
    When I met my husband, I found out that he survived Bleiburg and 12 years in Tito’s prison. He had deep scars – our children felt them. We know the truth.
    The parents of my son’s friend trying to escape Tito’s regime over the Austrian Alps lost their two small children in the freezing weather (they could have been the inspiration for our sculpture, Ivan Mestrovic’s sculpture of mother and children). The mother died some years ago still with the pain in her heart, the father is living out his last days in the home for elderly in his beloved Croatia, after he moved back from Sydney.
    Thank you Ina.
    PS. As I read your words, I glanced at the comments and there it was, there was “Gary J” saying what was buzzing in me since I opened your page and could not wait to get all my thoughts out…….“your work has at least given me the ability to see so much further than ever I would have looked.” (Gary J.) DITTO!

    • Thanks you so very much Maria Luise, what a breath of substance you bring here with your comment. Great multitudes share your destiny and thorns on our life’s paths as Croats who loved and love freedom. I will be very interested to read the book you are writing about your life. There aren’t enough of them depicting details or experiences and all are a treasure for our future generations. God bless and THANK YOU!

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